Friday, 26 August 2011

Apple's Relationship with Education and the Genesis of iTunes U

Apple likes to characterise itself as a friend of education. Back in the 1990's when I was living in Chicago, the primary school my kids attended had Macs liberally installed in its classrooms. I don't remember seeing any Windows computers. That was not unusual for US schools. I always assumed there had been some good discounts and perhaps other incentives offered by Apple.

Mac lab in Springfield, Missouri - photo courtesy of Ben and Laura Kreeger on Flickr

I've seen this Steve Jobs quote indicating that it's not just education, but humanities education that Apple likes to see itself associated with: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.” Post-PC devices refers of course to iPhones, iPods, and iPads - all of those devices which are beginning to take the place of personal computers as the chosen methods of accessing the internet. (Along with Android phones and Blackberries, of course!)

Which brings me to iTunes U. Today I read this article Could Steve Jobs' Stepping Down as Apple CEO Affect Higher Education? and it confirmed what I thought but had never seen in print: that iTunes U grew out of experiments such as the 2004 Duke University iPod-for-every-freshman programme. Which was instigated by Apple, not by Duke. Duke is not named in this article, but I'm sure that's one of the universities being referred to.

Of course iTunes U sprang up from Apple's wish to sell post-PC devices. It was not a purely-philanthropic offering of open educational resources. In a sense it was more interesting than that -- it was a purely natural move on the part of a corporation to expand its sales base, while doing something positive for education as well. If education can live with that, it can benefit from that.

Finally, I discovered this link to Apple's Education Seminars -- some are online webinars which happen regularly. You might find some of these interesting.

Terese Bird
Learning Technologist and SCORE Fellow

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